Right now, given the ever-changing daily events we are living through, thinking about starting with remote or virtual learning may seem quite overwhelming. How do I concentrate at home? How do I video conference? What do I need on my computer? How do we stay in touch with our community? Lots and lots of questions. Let’s start by taking a deep breath and realizing that we are all in this together. It will be a learning curve, and we will need to help each other through it.
Create a distraction-free space
In order to prepare for virtual learning, students should create a distraction-free space in their home that has a desk, good lighting and ventilation, and has the necessary supplies. Parents can help support students in this by helping them set it up and ensuring you don’t disrupt them when they have their “working hours”.
Keep the workspace free from clutter. One way to do this is to clean it up quickly at the end of each work session. This will help “stuff” to not accumulate and pile up. It is much easier to organize for a minute at the end of each session than waiting until the end of the week when it can seem unmanageable.
Students should not work on their bed, in front of the tv, with loud, lyric filled music on, while texting friends on their phones, or while playing a video game. This “multi-tasking” does not work. It splinters your attention, so that you are not focusing on anything and not doing any of the tasks well. Your brain needs a calm, distraction-free space in which to do its best work. At the desk, with a comfortable chair, low volume classical or spa music in the background with some nice lighting is perfect! And remember, everyone can see you and what is going on around you.
Check your technology
At Tilton School, students will use either Zoom or Google Meet for video conferencing. As always with technology, you should check to make sure you know how to control your video and audio on your computer–play around with it and get used to it before classes get started. We will also be using Google Calendar intensively–make sure you know how to share your calendar. Teachers, college counselors, and advisors will be sending invites for meetings and seeing your schedules.
If you have tech problems, please send an email to email@example.com so that the tech office folks can help you out!
Create a daily schedule and routine
Vacation is over. As sad as that may be, students need to treat this time as “school” time. That means getting up at a reasonable hour consistently, brushing your teeth, putting on some decent clothes, and getting ready for your day as if you were physically going to class.
Schedule all class meetings and individual appointments into your Google Calendar. Also schedule in time for lunch, breaks, working out, going outside, etc. Creating a structured, consistent routine will help you feel better about your days and will make you more productive.
This is how the “working from home” crowd does it! This will not only help you get things done, but it will support a more positive mindset and will help protect your mental health by reducing anxiety and stress.
Students at Tilton use Google apps to submit classwork, access school information, and stay organized. Utilize the tools at your disposal. The “TO DO” and “CALENDAR” functions on Google Classroom are great for tracking and planning time to complete assignments–it is color-coded by class, and students can see which assignments have been submitted and which have not. Use the weekly calendar to plan out benchmarks and deadlines.
Students should organize their Google Drive too. In Google Drive, make sure that folders are labeled for each class so that you can save your documents, notes, essays, etc. for each class in one place. Make sure that you have file folders and notebooks for each class and that all hard copy papers, notes, etc. are kept in them. Organizing Google Drive before classes begin will alleviate spending time on it when students should be doing classwork.
Take care of yourself.
Speaking of anxiety and stress, one of the most important things during this time is to work on mental and physical health. You might feel like sleeping more or staying in your room in your bed all day streaming Netflix.
Parents–support your students in their efforts to get up and out each day. Schedule in break times, workout times, and spend time outdoors each day. Physical activity is a necessity to keep our bodies and brains healthy. Being outdoors, specifically, is proven to improve and support our mental health. Continue to connect with friends using FaceTime, Skype, etc. to actually see and talk to people.
If you need any help with anything school-related, make sure to reach out to your advisor or teachers! Also, let’s all be sure to be RAKtivists–keep performing Random Acts of Kindness out there! We need that now more than ever.
Finally, treat this as an adventure! Is it ideal? No. Will we learn a whole lot from the experience, and come out stronger people at the end because of it? Yes. Set yourself up for success. Take control of your days. You are in the driver’s seat, so let’s go on this trip together.
Take care of each other,
Angela Keef began at Tilton School as the Director of The Center for Academic Achievement in 2015. Prior to Tilton she worked for more than 22 years in a variety of colleges and education settings in New Hampshire.
Angela holds State of New Hampshire General Special Education Experienced Educator Certification K-12 and State of New Hampshire Special Education Administrator Certification. Keef earned a Master's of Education, Special Education from the University of New Hampshire and a Bachelor of Science, Communication Disorders also from the University of New Hampshire.